The time has finally come. I’ve made a decision that’s been looming, threatening, browbeating and generally making me feel bad for years now.
I’ve decided to become vegan.
I’ve been vegetarian on and off for years – more than half my life, as it happens – and climbed back on the meat-free wagon at the start of 2013. My reasons have varied through those years, based largely on the inefficiency of meat production and the losses of energy in the process of converting plant-based food to meat-based food, and on the improved health I feel when not eating meat. I’ve known vegans for years, too; my best friend at the end of high school introduced me to the concept (and to tofu, thanks Amy) and I’ve had the utmost respect for the lifestyle since then.
I suppose it’s accurate to say that my move toward veganism started a long, long time ago, back when a friend and I took a road trip down south of Perth and spent a night on her friend’s family dairy farm. I was horror-struck by it. I recall, and will never forget, the smell that assailed me as she and I drove down the track toward the house and farm buildings complex, arising from a massive mound of brewery waste (scroll down), composting and steaming in the cold twilight, that was stored there to feed to the cattle. It stank. Everything within a half-kilometre radius stank of it. The bobby calves were streaked with flecks of it, and of their own and each others’ shit. Ignorant, I asked what the calves were hanging around the house for…and when the farmer told me they’d be gone in a few days (they were only a couple of days old when I saw them) I felt my stomach churn as a slow, creeping horror overcame me.
I suppressed that experience for a long time, but forgetting it was not going to happen. And in the second half of last year, I began to think more about it, and more about the prospect of “giving up” dairy and eggs, and other animal-derived food products. This was around the same time I began reading a lot more, and my reading choices coincidentally fed into this awakening I was feeling.
Then, about a month ago, I started reading Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Most of the shocking animal welfare facts in it, I knew or feared. But there were other things, too – the disgusting methods of processing chickens (disgusting merely because of their complete disregard for anything remotely approaching food hygiene), the precarious position in which our food supply chain has been placed by the use of intensive confinement methods of animal production, the sheer magnitude of waste (read: shit) output generated by confinement facilities…It was compelling.
I discussed it with Frog. I was, I remain, and I will always be so immensely grateful for her immediate and unconditional support for my choice, for her enthusiasm in joining me in finding alternatives and new ways of eating and drinking, and for willingly offering herself to the cause within the walls of our home. And so I have Gone Vegan.
Except, it’s not a matter of having Gone. And it’s not a matter of Going, which implies that age-old Australian tradition of “Gunna”. It’s a process, and one I don’t see ending any time soon. Instead of announcing to people that I’ve Gone Vegan, I think I like the term “transitioning to vegan”. I feel it allows me to be making mistakes, and making decisions, and making choices.
Going vegan (or transitioning to, shall we say) might appear on the surface just like the next level of vegetarian, but it isn’t. And that’s not something I appreciated until I was thrown into the middle of it. It’s only been a few days, but I’ve had to defend my decision to keep my cat (what – was I going to evict a middle-aged runt purebred entirely incapable of fending for herself??), I’ve had to accept that my veganism will be fatally flawed as long as I continue to identify as a fibre artist, and just today I had to consider the implications of aquaponics upon a vegan lifestyle.
It’s complicated. And so it is that I am not Going Vegan, with a bang, but transitioning to vegan, with many, many whimpers.